Erdoğan accepts opposition’s challenge, repeats disregard for all sorts of nationalisms
Erdoğan gave the keys of their new homes to Zeytinburnu district residents in Istanbul during an opening ceremony of the municipality. AA photo
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took up a challenge launched by main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, repeating Feb. 23 in Istanbul the stance he uttered last week in the southeastern province of Mardin that the government disregarded all sorts of nationalism.
The leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) had criticized Erdoğan’s speech in the Kurdish majority town of Mardin, defying him to deliver his same criticism of nationalism in his hometown of Rize located in the Black Sea province, if he was “brave enough.”
“The main opposition leader says, ‘You can say these words in Rize.’ If he wants to see [someone] who says one thing in one place and another in another place, he can look in the mirror. What we said in Diyarbakır, we are saying in Istanbul. And I will go to Rize soon and I will use the same words there too,” Erdoğan said during the opening ceremony of the Istanbul Municipality.
Erdoğan also noted that the CHP could not unfurl a single flag during a meeting in the southeastern province of Hakkari. “The Midyat district [of Mardin] has an Arab majority. The Kızıltepe district is almost entirely inhabited by our Kurdish brothers. We embrace all of them. We don’t have any problems,” he said.
The prime minister also defended a speech by AKP deputy and world-famous Turkish football player Hakan Şükür in which he claimed he was “not Turkish but Albanian.” Erdoğan emphasized that Şükür had mentioned his roots at Burdur University as it takes its name from the poet Mehmet Akif who authored the lyrics of the Turkish National Hymn and also has Albanian origin. “There is not another person who wore the Turkish National team’s jersey more than him, or who scored more goals than him. Those who criticize his words are discriminating.”
The Turkish prime minister also slammed the CHP for their social and economic policies. Commenting on criticisms raised against the prospects of the urban transformation projects overtaken by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) municipalities, Erdoğan argued that CHP administrations have always served the privileged of Turkish society.
“The CHP has, during all its history, wanted to control all the privileges. They would have the best education opportunities, but a kid from the shanty houses would not study. They always saw ‘black Turks’ as those who stood out amongst them. We are one of those [black Turks],” he said, referring to the ‘white Turk’ idiom that designates mostly a cast of secular and well-educated citizens. “They work in the best jobs, but the son of the concierge has to stay a son of a concierge. They will live in the best houses while they condemn the poor to shantytowns. That’s the mentality that they have defended for decades,” he said.